U.N. Pushes Forward With Plan to Eliminate Syria’s Chemical Weapons

The international body’s decision came as Human Rights Watch report accuses rebel militias of war crimes

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Khaled Al Hariri / Reuters

U.N. vehicles transport a team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as they leave their hotel in Damascus October 5, 2013.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council has thrown its weight behind a scheme tabled by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week that promises to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal within a year.

According to the plan, 100 experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will oversee neutralizing the illicit stockpile by mid-2014. However, the ambitious timeframe is at odds with previous estimates from munitions experts.

During an interview with Foreign Policy in September, Los Alamos National Laboratory specialist in chemical weapons Cheryl Rofer said she “wouldn’t be surprised to see this [Syria cleanup effort] last as long as ten years.”

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While OPCW and U.N. teams have already begun canvassing chemical weapons facilities controlled by President Bashar Assad, there is not yet any formal deal to inspect sites within rebel territory.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch published a scalding report on Friday detailing war crimes committed by Sunni militias targeting Alawite communities during an offensive in early August, including at least 190 civilians murdered and more than 200 hostages taken in the pro-government coastal stronghold of Latakia.